The Songs You’ve Never Heard by Becky Jerams and Ellie Wyatt, reviewed by Tegen (15)

The Songs You’ve Never Heard is the touching story of young social media influencer, Meg McCarthy. Meg is known only because of her brother, Casper. He is a famous singer who all the girls adore. Meg has always felt ignored by her parents, who focus all her attention on Casper. Little do they know, Meg writes her own songs and records them. But she never shares them with anyone. Except for her friend on a music social app, called Band-Snapper.

I could read this book over and over and never get bored. I would highly recommend this to anyone who loves music because it is the main theme that runs through the whole book. 

Tegen (15)

But soon her life is going to take some very positive and very negative turns and Meg is going to figure out who she wants by her side to help her. 

I loved this book because it was the perfect pace. I could understand everything that was going on without things getting repetitive or boring. But at the same time, there were plot twists when you least expect them. I also loved it because it portrays the feeling of being the gifted child’s sibling and the suffocation you can feel, really well. The authors portrays the sort of world that Meg is growing up in and show that being a rich, popular, famous teenager is not everything people hype it up to be. 

I would recommend this book to ages ten and upwards. This is because it’s easy-going, simple to understand, yet an engaging storyline that could keep anyone hooked from start to finish. I could read this book over and over and never get bored. I would highly recommend this to anyone who loves music because it is the main theme that runs through the whole book. 

The Reluctant Vampire Queen by Jo Simmons, reviewed by Catherine (11)

Fifteen-year-old Mo Merrydrew has her life sketched out perfectly. It’s all in The Plan, a scheme that she and her best friend have come up with together. Unfortunately, one evening, coming home from school, she encounters Bogdan, a vampire who insists that she is the Chosen One and must become the Vampire Queen of Britain. Mo doesn’t find it appealing, as she is a vegetarian. But the next day she meets Luca, Bogdan’s human servant, and suddenly the role of Vampire Queen seems a lot better…

The author is really good at making the reader want Mo to succeed – even though she faces a life of gruesome crime.

Catherine (11)

Bogdan and Luca ask Mo over and over again, trying to persuade her to change her mind. Just as the duo are leaving in defeat, Mo has a brainwave which solves everyone’s problems, usefully making her new crush stick around. But trouble is around the corner. The Vampire King is coming to England! Mo will need all the help she can get…or she might accidently become the royal dinner!

Mo likes hanging out with her bestie Lou, and eating mini Battenberg cakes. She is a person who values school and sadly she is bullied by a girl called Tracey Caldwell, who is also mean to Lou. Will Mo find the courage to stand up to her enemies so they leave her alone? The author is really good at making the reader want Mo to succeed – even though she faces a life of gruesome crime.

Throughout this story Mo finds her voice and discovers exactly what it means to be a Vampire Queen. I like how Mo seems to be a powerful role model and has strong feelings about women being equal to men. She criticizes Bogdan’s biased view that vampire monarchs should be male, but that he is willing to make ‘an exception’ for her. In her opinion (and mine too!) there is no exception to make!

When Shadows Fall by Sita Brahmachari, reviewed by Abi

This impactful tale is beautifully crafted from a variety of viewpoints, written in a mixture of prose, narrative verse and journal entries, woven together with evocative illustrations by Natalie Sirett.

While it is Kai’s story and his fall into darkness that is at the heart of the story, we also hear the voices of Orla, from the high-rise flats like Kai, and Zak from the big houses across the other side of the wilderness. This is the place where they spent most of their out of school time growing up and where they discovered and restored the bothy, which becomes the dramatic backdrop to astounding creativity but also danger, degradation, despair and near death.

We later hear from new arrival Omid who has faced trauma and loss himself, which helps him make the connection with Kai, whose family has fallen apart following the loss of his beloved baby sister Sula. Despite the best efforts of his friends, Kai falls in with a dangerous crowd, gets excluded and his self-destruction seems inevitable. But the bonds forged in their childhood ultimately prove stronger. Kai’s deep connection to nature and in particular to a pair of ravens, who have their own narration, and the creativity, which is sparked by Omid’s inspiring art, help to bring him home.

There are so many important themes in this multi-layered novel which speaks so powerfully about the importance of urban green spaces and community and the way society can fail to recognise the true value of things. This highly original novel perfectly captures raw adolescent emotions and fills the reader with empathy and understanding. Highly recommended.

About the book

Kai, Orla and Zak grew up together, their days spent on the patch of wilderness in between their homes, a small green space in a sprawling grey city. Music, laughter and friendship bind them together and they have big plans for their future – until Kai’s family suffers a huge loss. Trying to cope with his own grief, as well as watching it tear his family apart, Kai is drawn into a new and more dangerous crowd, until his dreams for the future are a distant memory.

Excluded from school and retreating from his loved ones, it seems as though his path is set, his story foretold. Orla, Zak and new classmate Om are determined to help him find his way back. But are they too late?A heart-breaking and poignant novel from award-winning author Sita Brahmachari, for fans of THE BLACK FLAMINGO, AND THE STARS WERE BURNING BRIGHTLY and POET X.

The Revelry by Katherine Webber, reviewed by Tegan

I adored this book! It’s only quite short, about 260 pages long but there is so much depth and detail in the story. The story goes that every year, there is a huge party for graduates of the local high school. It’s very secretive and you are only meant to go if you are a graduate. Our two main characters, Bitsy Clark and Amy, one year break into The Revelry. However, they blackout, and when they wake up, they don’t remember anything from the night, only a few flashbacks. Suddenly Bitsy is unlucky and Amy is getting everything she wants. As the story continues, Bitsy and Amy are tested in their friendship. How far will Bitsy go to prove something happened that night of the Revelry. And will anyone believe her? This story is great, I loved the way Katherine Webber created a world in such a short amount of time. I would definitely recommend this to anyone who likes mystery and fantasy. 

About the book

A story of best friends, bad luck and the consequences of breaking the rules in a town built on secrets and superstitions.

Growing up in Ember Grove, Bitsy Clark knows better than to break the rules around the Revelry, the mysterious end-of-year party in the woods. So when her best friend, Amy, persuades her to sneak in, Bitsy is full of misgivings.

Misgivings that she should have listened to, because it’s after the Revelry that Bitsy’s luck turns and her life starts to unravel. For Amy it’s the opposite, as if she’s been blessed with good fortune. Soon Bitsy is convinced that the Revelry has tied the two friends together in a curse that only she can break…

Furthermoor by Darren Simpson, reviewed by James

Furthermoor is an extremely well written book in which one boy overcomes the challenges he faces after his older sister is fatally injured in a car crash near his home. This book is extremely thought-provoking, as it personifies this boys problems into a physical being, that he needs to overcome to be able to achieve his full potential, with or without his sister. I enjoyed this story immensely, and, as I mentioned before, it really made me think about how different people deal with their problems, and how to be accepting and supportive in finding ways to help those people, in whatever way you feel is needed. As it deals with some quite serious issues, I would recommend this book for anyone 10+ who wants to read a book about forgiveness, and facing problems. I will be looking forward to reading more books by this author!

About the book

The real world is a hostile place for twelve-year-old Bren, his schooldays stalked by vicious bully, Shaun, and his family life fractured at home. Ever since his sister Evie died in an accident, Bren’s only safe space is Furthermoor, an imagined world of mechanised trees and clockwork animals, where Evie is still alive. In Furthermoor, no one can hurt Bren…until the mysterious Featherly arrives.

Now Bren is forced to confront his deepest fears and decide if his place in the real world is worth fighting for.Enter a world as vast and dark as your imagination, in this unforgettable coming-of-age story about courage, friendship and finding your voice.

Alex Rider: Nightshade by Anthony Horowitz, reviewed by Ben

Nightshade is the most recent book of the Alex Rider series, a wildly popular set of books set on a 15-year-old boy who has been recruited by MI5. MI5 use him for missions that adults can’t achieve, this mission was like wise. Him breaching a high security prison, acting like a criminal in an attempt to befriend and get information out of a similar aged boy who was part of a cult. 

This book was very exciting and well written. It made you want to know more from page one. I think the book could mainly be enjoyed by early teens and a little younger, but I think most people would like to read Nightshade. Although many argue the Alex Rider series peaked near Scorpia rising, I think all the books have been very good in the Alex Rider series.

All the Money in the World by Sarah Moore Fitzgerald, reviewed by Isobel

This is a heart-warming story about social status, privilege and identity. The moral being: Don’t be ashamed of where you come from and who you are. 

In this story the protagonist, Penny Nolan, lives in a place ominously referred to as ‘The Flats’. The flats have poor lighting, rats and a damp problem. Penny feels that people look down on her because of where she comes from, for not having enough money. She longs to escape. 

When Penny befriends Violet Fitzsimons, the mysterious elderly woman living in the large house next door, she feels a sense of escape as Violet teaches her to play the piano and tells stories of her much-loved schooldays at a respectable boarding school called Pearlbourne. Hearing about Pearlbourne makes Penny jealous. It makes her realise, properly, how different she and her friends from The Flats are, and she becomes determined to find a way to attend Pearlbourne herself. However, when Penny eventually finds herself thrust into a world of privilege, her shame about who she is and where she comes from grows.  

This is the story of a poor girl in a rich world. A girl who has to earn respect, rather than be born with it. A girl who feels she has to lie about everything, her friends, her family, and her life, just to be accepted by society. This is the story of someone pretending to be something she isn’t, even though the person she was originally was just as good, in fact, better.  

This is a story of family, friends, lies, secrets, playing, working, acting, hiding and pretending. This is a story of how much good a person can do when fuelled by cold, hard ambition. 

Hide and Seek by Robin Scott-Elliot, reviewed by James

Hide and Seek is a thought-provoking book about Amelie, a Jewish French girl who witnesses her family being taken away by the gestapo during World War Two, and her quest to be reunited with them in Nazi occupied Paris. This is a brilliantly written book that had me sitting on the edge of my seat all the way through and should I come across any other books written by this author, I would definitely be inclined to read them.

About the book:

‘Hide and Seek brings to vivid life the courage of young people who risked all in the French resistance in the second world war.’ OBSERVER

‘Beautifully told’ TELEGRAPH

Thrilling new page turner by Robin Scott-Elliot, author of The Tzar’s Curious Runaways and The Acrobats of Agra.

Paris, 1942. When Amelie Dreyfus hides in her mother’s wardrobe it’s a game; when she comes out it’s a matter of life or death. With her family taken, Amelie has to fend for herself in Nazi-occupied France – she’s no choice but to resist. In the Resistance life hangs by a thread. Betrayed, Amelie’s forced to flee to Britain. But Paris is home and she returns to face one final, desperate mission.

The Five Clues (Don’t Doubt The Rainbow 1) by Anthony Kessel, reviewed by Laura-May

Edie is distraught after her mums death however at the stone setting she finds a clue! And with it a letter from her mum containing the knowledge that she was murdered!! Following Edie as she solves clues leading to important research -the last case her mum took! 

I loved this book! It was funny, heartwarming and gripping! It carried an amazing sense of mystery that enraptures the audience. Friendly characters, mind-bending puzzles and lots and lots of laughter.

Recommend for 10+ action and mystery lovers!  

About the book

The first book in the series, The Five Clues, is a real-time murder-mystery thriller and family drama, combining an exciting race against time with a heart-rending story about a teenager learning to live with the loss of a beloved parent.

Walking back from her mother’s grave, 13-year-old schoolgirl Edie Marble finds a note in a pocket of the sheepskin coat that she hasn’t worn since the day, a year earlier, when she received the awful news of her mother’s death. The note is from her mother, who had been looking into a corporate human rights violation and had become fearful for her life after receiving death threats. She trusts only Edie – because of their special bond and Edie’s intelligence – and has laid a trail of clues for Edie to find that will help her to shed light on the violation and uncover the mystery around her death.

Through her wit and determination, Edie steadily gathers evidence and negotiates the dramatic twists and turns of the story by collaborating with her friends and family to gradually unearth a sinister attempt by a pharmaceutical company to conceal their illegal development of a lethal virus.

As Edie’s investigations progress she is introduced, in parallel, to the Three Principles, which help her conquer various psychological stresses and support her in coming to terms with her grief. Reading age 11+

All the Money in the World by Sarah Moore Fitzgerald, reviewed by Abi

All the Money in the World focuses on fifteen-year-old Penny and her struggle to remain true to herself following a life-changing event. Penny lives in a small, damp flat, a modern-day tenement in a once grand house that has seen better days. Struggling to cope with the grind of consistent poverty, bullied at school because of her socio-economic status, Penny wishes for more. And that wish comes true when a new friendship and a huge sum of money suddenly enter her life.

This is a timely story for readers of all ages, especially in a country facing an ongoing housing crisis, where the right to a home can no longer be taken for granted. Penny is a wonderful character, flawed and fallible but wonderfully empathetic, and inspiring in her resilience.

While there is a moral at the heart of the story – who you is what matters, not what you have or don’t have – the author never falls into the trap of preaching to her readers, offering instead and realistic and resonant account of what happens when a teenager’s dreams seem to come true. Compelling and extremely readable, this new story from an already accomplished author will stay with the reader long after the last page is read.

I have two sisters, both are younger than me (I’m the oldest child). I’ve lived in Brighton and Hove my whole life. I live with both of my parents and siblings. I have 6 cats which can be very stressful at times. When I’m older I want to become an English teacher, I want to inspire young people to follow their dreams.

About the book

One day you’re broke. The next, you have all the money in the world. What would you do? A gripping, timely story about cold, hard cash and little white lies for fans of Jenny Valentine, Siobhan Dowd and Lara Williamson.

Fifteen-year-old Penny longs for something better. Better than a small, damp flat. Better than her bullying classmates and uninterested teachers. Better than misery and poverty day in day out. 

An unlikely friendship and a huge sum of money promise a whole lot of new chances for Penny, and she realises that not only can she change her life, she can change herself . 

But at what cost?

Perfect for readers of 10+.

‘If you have a child between the ages of 9 and 13, and they’re not reading Sarah Moore Fitzgerald’s work, you’re missing a trick. Her latest book is laced with her trademark compassion and kindness, as well as being a cracking good read on privilege, wealth and identity. Not to be missed.’ Louise O’Neill, Irish Examiner